HOW TO SURVIVE rip currents
A rip current can occur anywhere there are waves, including giant lakes. The bigger the
waves, the more powerful the rip.
1 Know what to look for. The water
inside a rip current is often foamier or
more churned up than the water around
it, sometimes even brownish in colour,
having stirred up sand or dirt. If there are
lifeguards around, ask them where the
rips are – they probably spotted every
one of them before they were even done
with their morning coffee.
2 Pay attention to piers
and jetties. Man-made
structures like these often
form the trough in the sand
that creates a rip current.
Troughs can form naturally,
too, and they can also
appear, disappear, or change
throughout the day.
3 Unless your name is Michael Phelps, steer clear. A rip current
can travel at around 8kph (5mph) – about twice as fast as
you can swim. If you’re a surfer, you can use a rip to get beyond
the breakers faster, riding it like a conveyor belt out to sea.
But, unless you’re lifeguard-fit, you have little chance of
out-swimming a rip.
4 If you do get caught, go with the flow. Relax,
tread water, and let the rip pull you away from
shore – you’ll need to save your strength. As
soon as you feel the current ease, swim parallel
to the shore. Rips are narrow channels and you
will often exit the current if you move laterally.
5 Still stuck? Sit tight. The rip current will only
pull you out so far and will sometimes even
deliver you to the calmer water behind the
breaking waves. Once there, do what you can
to get the attention of a lifeguard.